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Falls of Clyde
National Historic Landmark Study
by James Delgado, 1988
Designated April 11, 1989

Present and Historic Physical Appearance

Falls of Clyde as restored and on display at Pier 7 in Honolulu in 1986. Photo courtesy Hawaii Maritime Center.
The 1878 four-masted ship Falls of Clyde is a floating exhibit moored in Honolulu harbor. Located at the Hawaii Maritime Center off Pier 7, Falls of Clyde was rescued from destruction, moved to Honolulu and first restored and opened to the public in 1968. Since then, the vessel has undergone continual restoration. Falls of Clyde is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at a National level of significance.


As built in 1878, Falls of Clyde is an iron-hulled, four-masted vessel originally rigged as a ship, later downrigged to a bark, subsequently dismasted, and then restored in 1970 to her original ship rig. Falls of Clyde is 266.1 feet in length, with a 40.0- foot beam and a 23.5-foot depth of hold. Falls of Clyde is registered at 1,807 gross and 1,741 net tons.[1] Built staunchly with iron Z-bar frames and double riveted iron plate laid as inner and outer strakes, Falls of Clyde was rated 100A1 by Lloyd's of London, the highest rating the conservative maritime insurance firm could provide. Falls of Clyde was built to the British medium clipper model. Slower sailers than the sleek tea clippers of the 1860s and 70s, the fuller-bodied medium clippers made fair passages with greater capacity than the earlier clippers.[2] Full-rigged on her fore-, main-, mizzen-, and jiggermasts, Falls of Clyde was rigged with royals over single topgallants. In 1899 the vessel was downrigged to a bark; the squaresail yards on the jiggermast were replaced with a spanker boom and gaft which increased the vessel's maneuverability, an asset when sailing along a coastline. Typical for the period and type of construction, Falls of Clyde was rigged with wire rope.

The vessel, built for the general carrying trade, had a large open wood deck interrupted only by three hatches, and two riveted iron deckhouses which housed the galley, cook and steward's cabins, and the young "brassbounder" apprentices. Falls of Clyde has a 34-foot forecastle deck and a 23-foot poop deck. The forecastle sheltered the crew and the ship's large patent windlass. The poop housed a large dining saloon with birdseye maple and mahogany panels and pilasters, polished brass hardware, and marble sideboard. Cabins for officers and passengers line the saloon; aft are the master's stateroom and a stairway leading above into a shelter house on the poopdeck. Also on the poop deck is the ship's wheel and wheel box, binnacle, and an ornate skylight for the dining saloon. Similar to other British deepwatermen of the period, Falls of Clyde is a well-built vessel with a workable combination of speed, cargo capacity, and ease and economy of operation.

Between 1898 and 1901 Falls of Clyde underwent modification after her sale to American owners and entry into service as a Hawaiian transpacific passenger and freight-carrying vessel. These modifications, in addition to re-rigging Falls of Clyde as a bark, included removing the crew quarters from the forecastle and building a wooden deckhouse forward with galley, accommodations for 12 men, and a cabin for the cook and steward. The forecastle was then converted into an icehouse for fresh provisions. With the relocation of the galley, a steam-powered donkey engine was installed in the iron deckhouse that had originally housed the galley. A small wooden shelterhouse was added to the poopdeck for passenger comfort.[3]

In 1907 Falls of Clyde was once again modified when she was converted into a sailing oil tanker. Ten riveted steel bulk liquid cargo tanks, five on the port, five on the starboard side, were built into the ship. The tanks, reinforced by cross braces, are separated into two levels, with smaller wing or "summer" tanks atop larger tanks. The steel tops of the wing tanks form part of the weather deck; two 10-foot wide steel deck sections run from the poop to the forecastle on the port and starboard sides of the vessel, with the original wooden deck running in a 20-foot wide section along the centerline. Each tank is marked by a 3- x 4- x 2.6-foot steel expansion trunk on the steel sections of the weather deck. Steel ladders running through the trunks provide access to the tank interiors and control valves. A large pumproom and boilerroom were added forward behind an oil- tight steel bulkhead. The boilerroom, a 20- x 30-foot space, has a single oil-fired "Scotch" fire-tube boiler, a D.C. dynamo, and a fuel-feed pump. A short smokestack originally rose above the weather deck from the boiler room; the opening remains in the deck, but the stack has been removed. The pumproom, divided into two levels, contains large feedwater tanks for the boiler on its upper ('tween deck) level. The lower pumproom, in the hold, is reached by a single steel ladder. It contains a 10-inch horizontal reciprocating oil cargo pump and a similar 8-inch saltwater ballast pump, both manufactured by the George P. Dow Pumping Engine Co. of San Francisco. Steel piping, including pipes for heating crude oil and molasses cargoes, transfer and discharge pipes, and control valves, line the pumproom.[4]

After 1907 the vessel underwent little change until after 1922, when her yards, royals, and topmasts were sent down and Falls of Clyde was converted to a fuel-oil barge and floating gasoline depot. The lower masts were later cut down to just above the weather deck and the bowsprit was removed. In 1970 Falls of Clyde's rig was restored. During restoration the masts were replaced with rolled and plug-welded steel joined to the original iron lowermast sections. New steel lower and topsail yards produced by the Scott-Lithgow Shipyard in Glasgow, Scotland, the vessel's builder, and new wooden topgallant and royal yards, jibboom, and spanker boom turned in Oregon to original specifications, were installed and the vessel was re-rigged with wire rope in a historic fashion. Restoration of the vessel's hull, equipment, and decks has proceeded since 1968; the only major areas left unrestored in 1988 are the boilerroom, pumproom, and weather deck. All restoration work has followed original plans and employs in-kind replacement and adherence to historic technique.[5]


1. Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping.... (London: Lloyd's, 1885) n.p.; Falls of Clyde was registered with official number 80436.

2. Basil Lubbock, The Last of the Windjammers (Glasgow, Scotland: Brown, Son & Ferguson, 1927), Vol. I, p. 244.

3. Capt. James Kleinschmidt, "Survey Report No. 3-JK: Survey of the Ship Falls of Clyde," (1987) typescript on file at the Hawaii Maritime Center, Honolulu, p. 3.

4. Ibid., p. 2. Also see Fred Klebingat, "The Falls of Clyde," The Annual Dog Watch, No. 14 (1957) pp. 59-60, and the Hawaii Maritime Center, "The Last Sail-Driven Oil Tanker: A Proposal to Restore Her Pumproom and Associated Tanker Elements," (1987), typescript on file at the Hawaii Maritime Center, Honolulu.

5. Kleinschmidt, op cit., pp. 5-6, 8-9.

Statement of Significance

Falls of Clyde as built in 1878 as a four-masted full-rigged ship. Illustration courtesy of Hawaii Maritime Center, Inc.
The 1878 ship Falls of Clyde is the world's only surviving four-masted full-rigged ship. Built in Great Britain in the last quarter of the 19th century during a shipbuilding boom inspired in part by increased trade with the United States, Falls of Clyde made several voyages to American ports, notably San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, while under the British flag. Sold to American owners in 1898, Falls of Clyde gained American registry by a special act of Congress in 1900. Henceforth she was involved in the nationally important Hawaiian transpacific sugar trade for Capt. William Matson's Matson Navigation Co., a shipping firm of international scope and significance that continues in business. Falls of Clyde, ninth vessel acquired by Matson, is the oldest surviving member of the Matson fleet. After 1907, Falls of Clyde entered another nationally significant maritime trade, transporting petroleum as a sailing oil tanker. Specifically modified for the petroleum trade as a bulk cargo carrier, Falls of Clyde retains integrity of design, materials, and workmanship, and is of exceptional national significance as the oldest surviving American tanker and as the only surviving sailing oil tanker left afloat not only in the United States but also in the world.

The preceding statement of significance is based on the more detailed discussion that follows.


The Clyde River shipbuilding firm of Russell and Co., a scarcely five-year-old concern in 1878, built more than 500 iron and steel-hulled squareriggers at their Glasgow, Scotland yard. By 1883, the firm was noted as having "already acquired an excellent reputation, more especially for the large and splendid sailing ships which they have turned out from year to year." [1] In 1878 Russell and Co. laid down and launched the first of nine four- masted vessels they would build for the Glasgow Falls Line of Wright and Breakenridge. The fleet, named for Scottish waterfalls, commenced with Falls of Clyde. Built for trade between Britain and India, the ship also journeyed into the Pacific, stopping at Melbourne, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; Bangkok; Hong Kong; Shanghai; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco. Launched in response to a shipping boom in Great Britain, Falls of Clyde was specifically designed to carry bulk cargoes quickly and cheaply. In 1886, on the occasion of the ship's arrival in New Zealand, the editors of the Auckland Star stated:

Four-masted vessels are rapidly coming into favour, they being found to be equally as handy and as cheap in their working as the old three- masters, whilst at the same time larger hulls, and consequently greater carrying power, are also obtained, two most important matters in these days of cheap rates. As a proof of the carrying power of these vessels, it may be mentioned that the Falls of Clyde has on board some 3500 tons of general cargo, of which some 3000 tons are for this port....[2]

Carrying cargoes such as cement, jute, iron, grain, and general merchandise, Falls of Clyde principally plied her trade as an "Indiaman." Her maiden voyage, commencing at Greenock, Scotland, on April 20, 1879, brought Falls of Clyde to Karachi and thence back to London on December 18 of the same year. Over the next few years, the ship also sailed to Rangoon, Calcutta, and Bombay.

While continuing to trade as an Indiaman, Falls of Clyde made 10 voyages to American ports while under the British flag. Sailing to San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon, for wheat, Falls of Clyde also made one voyage to New York. The voyages to San Francisco were particularly important, for they involved the ship in one of the United States and Britain's most significant maritime trades, the California grain trade. By the mid-1850s many gold-seeking migrants to California had turned from the placers to another profitable aspect of the Golden State--agriculture and ranching. The great Central Valley was planted with wheat, which flourished in the hot, dry climate the valley offered. Gradually wheat crops increased, and by 1854 there was a sufficient surplus to allow for the first export, by ship, of wheat abroad. The wheat business boomed, beginning in 1858 when one astute San Francisco merchant, Isaac Friedlander, commenced buying up crops and exporting them to grain-hungry Europe and Britain in a fleet of ships he chartered for the purpose. In 1860, the wheat harvest was 5,928,470 bushels, "nearly five times the production of the rest of the United States west of the Rockies."[3] The amount exported each year increased, and by 1875 the entire Central Valley had become "a vast wheat growing empire, with great ranches, 20,000 acres in extent, planted to the crop year after year."[4] Historian Gerald Nash commented

Wheat proved to be as great a boon to California's economy as gold had been in an earlier era. California produced a hard, dry, and unusually white wheat that became particularly popular on the Liverpool Corn Exchange. Environment, entrepreneurship, and technology combined to support the claim of the editor of the California Farmer in 1869 that "California is now esteemed the granary of the world"....the initiative for California's entry into world wheat markets was taken by a restless group of San Francisco merchants in 1860, spurred by what they considered to be the state's isolation from lucrative eastern and international marketing outlets. After more than a decade of strenuous efforts, by 1875 they succeeded in capturing a large share of the British wheat trade.[5]

To carry California's wheat to market, businessmen devised a system of waterborne and rail transport. From the valley, wheat was taken by wagon or rail to the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, and thence down to the bay and the grain port of Port Costa on Carquinez Strait, or into San Francisco. There, large numbers of vessels, known colloquially as the "wheat fleet," called to discharge their bulk cargoes and load sacks of wheat grain.

The United States' merchant fleet boomed in response to the trade, with large "downeasters" built at east coast yards sailing round Cape Horn for California. Yet the largest number of vessels came from 14,000 nautical miles away. From Great Britain, a large number of iron, and later steel-hulled large capacity ships, also built for speed and economy of handling, were launched and sent to California since the trade demanded vessels that made good time, carried as much cargo as possible, and required small crews. The British medium clippers, or deepwatermen, of the 1870s and 1880s answered admirably to the purpose. In 1881-1882, for example, a record harvest in California resulted in a fleet of 559 vessels carrying more than 1,000,000 tons of wheat sailed out the Golden Gate; only 154 were American-flag ships.[6] Falls of Clyde made voyages to San Francisco in 1886, 1888, 1892, 1895, and 1898. She also sailed up the Columbia River for Willamette Valley wheat, calling at Astoria and Portland, Oregon, in 1893 and twice in 1897. On November 30, 1897, for example, the Portland Oregonian reported that "two more good sized wheat cargoes cleared at the custom- house yesterday, and will go down the river this morning. The vessels were the British bark Principality, with 95,768 bushels...and the British ship Falls of Clyde, with 100,290 bushels of wheat valued at $82,739....Both of the vessels are for Queenstown or Falmouth for orders."[7]

Falls of Clyde made her last voyage under the British flag from London to San Francisco in 1898, arriving at the latter port on November 15. Within a month the vessel was sold through intermediaries to Capt. William Matson of San Francisco. On December 21, 1898, the San Francisco Call reported that "the master and crew left the vessel yesterday and her new owners will proceed to get her ready for the Hawaiian trade. The yards are to be taken off her jiggermast and she will be turned into a four-masted bark." Matson, a Swedish emigrant to the United States in 1864, arrived in California in 1867 as a merchant seaman. In 1882 Matson and partners acquired the schooner Emma Claudina, Matson's first sea command and progenitor of a fleet of sailers, steamers, liners, and freighters. The signing of a reciprocal trade treaty between the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1876 opened the Hawaiian islands to large-scale trade and paved the way for the introduction of Hawaiian cane sugar to the United States. Among the shipping lines created by the booming sugar trade was Matson's. Matson, teaming with California and Hawaii sugar magnate Claus Spreckels, particularly profited.

As his business boomed, Matson acquired additional larger ships; the ninth vessel to be added to the fleet was Falls of Clyde.[8] The vessel gained American registry through shrewd manipulation on Matson's part. According to U.S. law, Falls of Clyde needed American registry to trade between American ports, a right denied to foreign-built and registered vessels. This problem surfaced for American owners of foreign bottoms with the annexation of Hawaii as an American territory in July 1898. Only a major rebuilding at a port in the U.S. would bring American registry, so Matson, like other shipowners, sought and obtained temporary Hawaiian registry in the hope that Hawaiian vessels would be "grandfathered" into American-register ships. When this strategy failed, lobbying added language to the 1900 organic act establishing the territory of Hawaii that specifically granted U.S. registry to certain vessels, including Falls of Clyde.[9]

Falls of Clyde first arrived in Hawaii in January 1899 under the guise of her temporary Hawaiian register. The Hawaii Herald commented upon her arrival. "The four-masted iron ship Falls of Clyde, floating the Hawaiian flag...has reached Honolulu. She is the first four-masted iron ship with yards on each mast that ever came into the harbor flying the Hawaiian flag."[10] Falls of Clyde had been sent to obtain a permanent register. When denied, the ship nonetheless returned to San Francisco. There she was modified by Matson to carry passengers. The vessel, downrigged to a bark, sailed for Hilo on June 6, 1899. For the next eight years, Falls of Clyde carried assorted freight, livestock, and small numbers of passengers between San Francisco and Hilo, usually sailing on a monthly schedule. The bark returned to San Francisco laden with sugar and passengers. Typical notations of the vessel in the Hilo Tribune included exhortations to "all persons who intend to take passage by reserve their stateroom at once as the passenger list will be a large one." On August 1, 1902, another notice announced that "Falls of Clyde sailed Tuesday with the following cargo: 3234 bags of Olaa sugar, 3000 bags of Hilo sugar, 5000 bags Hakalau, 11950 bags Waiakea, and 7301 bags of Pepeekeo sugar; 2 cases ribbons, 20 pkgs. household goods and 12 bags of coffee."[11]


In 1905, a group of 45 independent oil producers formed the Associated Oil Co. of California. Captain Matson, while a speculator in the petroleum trade, sold his shares and some real property, including one Matson steamer and four company sailers, notably Falls of Clyde, to Associated. The sale of the sailing ships cleared the way for steamers on the Matson Line and commenced a new career for Falls of Clyde. On March 26, 1907, under tow of the Matson steamer Hilonian, the bark left for San Francisco and conversion into a sailing oil tanker for her new owners. The use of sailing vessels in the petroleum trade was not unusual; a number of ships were converted to tanker use or specifically built for the trade. However, most carried case oil, usually refined products, in tins packed in wooden cases and handled like any other cargo. Very few vessels were modified like Falls of Clyde to become bulk cargo tankers. Of all of these vessels, only Falls of Clyde survives. In 1907, ten large steel oil tanks were installed in her hold, steam pumps were added, and a portion of the `tween deck was left open for case oil and barrels. Falls of Clyde retained her bark rig. The vessel's conversion was completed early in 1908, and on February 21, 1908, the bark was re-registered with the Associated Oil Co. of San Francisco as her new owners. The vessel's capacity was 19,000 barrels, but she reportedly usually loaded only 17,500 barrels of oil in her tanks and "1,200 steel drums of 100 gallons capacity, filled with gasoline, in the `tween deck."[12]

The late Capt. Fred Klebingat, a Cape Horn sailor, master, and treasure trove of maritime lore, worked as mate aboard Falls of Clyde in 1916-1917. He later reminisced:

For many years the Falls of Clyde and her running mate Marion Chilcott came to San Francisco only to refit. They loaded oil at an outside port near Santa Barbara, Gaviota....They loaded always for Honolulu, returning in ballast....When I joined the Clyde as chief mate early in 1916 the run was changed; she then traded regularly to San Francisco, loading fuel oil and gasoline in drums for Honolulu, and returning with molasses....She was a handy ship, the mate and one watch could make her do their bidding....While in the Hawaii trade she carried master, two mates, pumpman, carpenter, cook, cabin boy, and ten A.B.'s....She handled like a boat...only beating in close quarters we would have the steam up and haul the yards around....She traveled 12 knots very easily, and I have seen her logging 14 and over many a time. In the two years I was in the vessel I never saw a ship which could keep up with her.[13]

Falls of Clyde continued in the petroleum trade between California and Hawaii, making anywhere from five to nine voyages per year until 1920. That year the bark was sold to G.W. McNear of San Francisco and fitted out for a voyage to Denmark with a cargo of case oil. Sailing from San Francisco on January 31, 1920, Falls of Clyde arrived at Kolding, Denmark, on June 6. Clearing for Beaumont, Texas, on June 18, the vessel arrived there on August 26 and quickly sailed for Port Arthur. Loading a cargo of Texas oil, Falls of Clyde sailed once again across the Atlantic, departing on September 4 and arriving at Kobenhaven on November 12, 1920. Returning to Texas in February 1921, Falls of Clyde was sold to new owners, the General Petroleum Co. of San Francisco, in March 1921. Under General Petroleum's flag she made one last voyage in the trade under sail, clearing for Buenos Aires by way of Tampico, Mexico, in the summer of 1921. Returning to Tampico on August 21, 1921, Falls of Clyde was laid up, and in December of that year was still moored in Tampico harbor.

Falls of Clyde as a Ketchikan fuel barge prior to restoration. Photo courtesy Hawaii Maritime Center, Inc.
In January 1922 Falls of Clyde cleared Tampico and was towed through the Panama Canal to San Pedro, California, arriving there on February 28. At San Pedro, she was stripped of her yards, topmasts, and royals, and converted into a fuel barge for General Petroleum. On March 27, 1922, under tow by the steamer Yorba Linda, the former bark left San Pedro for Ketchikan, Alaska, by way of Seattle. For the next 37 years, Falls of Clyde served as "a floating filling station in Ketchikan....securely moored to their [General Petroleum's] dock...she goes up and down with the tides, a convenient platform for servicing fishing boats in need of fuel."[14] The manager of the vessel lived aboard Falls of Clyde with his family in the saloon and cabins.


In 1959, the General Petroleum Co., reorganized as Socony-Vacuum (now Mobil Oil), developed new shore facilities at Ketchikan. Falls of Clyde, no longer needed, was sold to William W. Mitchell of Ketchikan, towed to Seattle, and laid up. Between 1959 and 1963 several efforts were made by Capt. Fred Klebingat, Karl Kortum, Robert Weinstein, Harold Huycke, and others to save the ship from her projected fate of being scuttled as a breakwater. In the spring of 1963, as the end of Falls of Clyde seemed imminent, a group of civic-minded Hawaiians, including John Wright and Robert Krauss, aided by funds from the Matson Navigation Co. and donations including money raised by school children, suceeded in purchasing Falls of Clyde. Towed to Hawaii by the US Navy tug Moctobi, Falls of Clyde arrived to an enthusiastic reception in Honolulu in November 1963.[15] Restoration of the vessel proceeded to the point where she was opened to the public in 1968. Remasted in 1970 and subsequently rerigged, Falls of Clyde was operated at Pier 5 by the Bernice P. Bishop Memorial Museum. Recently turned over to the new Hawaii Maritime Center and moved to Pier 7, Falls of Clyde is now the centerpiece of a major new maritime museum. Rerigged as the full-rigged ship she was when launched in 1878, restoration of the vessel continues as Falls of Clyde passes her 110th birthday.


1. Basil Lubbock, The Last of the Windjammers (Glasgow, Scotland: Brown, Son & Ferguson, 1927), Vol. 1, p. 244.

2. Auckland, New Zealand Star, July 23, 1886.

3. Earl Pomeroy, The Pacific Slope: A History of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1965), p. 94.

4. Oscar Lewis, "Introduction," in Oscar Lewis, ed., Breadbasket of the World; California's Great Wheat-Growing Era: 1860-1890 (San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1984), p. 1.

5. Gerald D. Nash, "Stages of California's Economic Growth, 1870- 1970: An Interpretation," California Historical Quarterly, LI (4) Winter 1972, p. 317.

6. Gary Kurutz, "The Grain Fleet," in Lewis, Breadbasket of the World, p. 8.

7. Portland Oregonian, November 30, 1897.

8. William L. Worden, Cargoes: Matson's First Century in the Pacific (Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1981), pp. 1-10, pass.

9. Ibid. pp. 10-11.

10. Supplement to the Hawaii Herald, Janaury 26, 1899.

11. The Hilo Tribune, May 2 and August 1, 1902.

12. Fred Klebingat, "The Falls of Clyde," The Annual Dog Watch, No. 14 (1957), p. 60.

13. Ibid., pp. 60, 64.

14. Klebingat, op cit. p. 64.

15. See Fred Klebingat, "Falls of Clyde," Oceans, Vol. V, No. 5 (September-October 1972), and Karl Kortum, "The Saving of the Falls of Clyde," (n.d.) scrapbook, National Maritime Museum, San Francisco.

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